The Ribhu Gita: By Richard Clarke

Your true nature is always the undivided, nondual Brahman,
Which is a mass of Being-Consciousness-Bliss,
Motionless, ancient, still,
Eternal, without attributes,
Without confusions, without sheaths,
Without parts, without impurity,
Completely free from any illusion of duality,
Full, peerless, and the One.

From Song of Ribhu, Chapter two.

The Ribhu Gita is a spiritual text that was extensively used by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It was one of the first books he read after Self-Realization, one whose message clearly accorded with what he had realized within himself. For many years during his life it was read to those at Ramanasramam. It is still read at Ramanasramam today. Ramana’s use and recommendation of this text has brought it into much wider visibility among those interested in his teachings and Advaita Vedanta.

Papaji reading from The Ribhu Gita

A number of teachers in the tradition of Sri Ramana have been using these translations of the Ribhu Gita in their teaching. Above is a picture of Papaji reading from the English Translation of the Sanskrit version.

The Ribhu Gita is a book that is best read aloud, a few verses at one time. It is in an ancient form designed to be chanted, and they way it is written is most conducive to reading aloud, even if one is reading it to oneself.

The Ribhu Gita presents the timeless teaching of Self Knowledge, emphasized by Advaita Vedanta. Its fundamental tenet is the identity of the Self with Brahman, a term signifying the vast Absolute. This scripture presents the teaching given by the sage, Ribhu, to Nidaga to become enlightened into his true nature.

According to Annamalai Swami, “Bhagavan often said that we should read and study the Ribhu Gita regularly. In the Ribhu Gita it is said, ‘That bhavana “I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am Brahman, I am everything” is to be repeated again and again until this becomes the natural state.”

In describing the Self or Brahman, negation is primarily used because the Self can never be an object, can never be what is perceived or conceived. By negation in the process of Self-inquiry, the ignorance of identifying ones own existence with an individual body and mind is destroyed. This “destruction” of ignorance is really not the destruction of anything real, as the false identification as an individual just consists of assumptions, ideas. What remains after this so-called destruction is not anything new. It is not something achieved. It is not a transformation. It is what has been your innermost identity all the time.

As all differences are an illusory appearance
On Brahman, which is not different from the Self,
Due to conditionings of the Self like the defect of nescience (ignorance)
And conditionings of Brahman like maya (Illusion, delusion),
One should realize, by a practice of negation,
That all appearances are not a whit different from the substratum
And one should cognize the originless, endless,
Undivided identity of the Self and Brahman.

From Song of Ribhu, Chapter One

“The text is a relentless reiteration of uncompromising Advaita―that the Supreme Brahman, ‘That,’ is all that exists and exists not, that nothing else exists, the Self is Brahman and Brahman is the Self, I am that, I am all, and That is myself. This Awareness is moksha (liberation) which is attained by the way of knowledge and the certitude I-am-Brahman,” says Dr. H Ramamoorthy, one of the co-translators, in his Translator’s Introduction to the English translation of the Sanskrit version published by The Society of Abidance in Truth in 1995.

The origins of the Ribhu Gita are uncertain. It is contained within the Sivarahasya, an ancient Sanskrit epic devoted to Siva. It has been compared to the better-known Bhagavad Gita, contained within the epic, Mahabharata. Similar dialogs between Ribhu and Nidagha on the Self and Brahman are also found within the traditional 108 Upanisads, so it appears that the origin of the Ribhu Gita dates from the Upanisadic period, generally thought to be about 600 BCE.

The Ribhu Gita exists in two forms, the traditional Sanskrit version, and a Tamil version rendered in the late 1800s by Bhikshu Sastrigal, also known as Ulagantha Swamigal. Both versions have been translated into English by Dr. H. Ramamoorthy, a Sanskrit and Tamil scholar, and Nome, a Self-Realized sage in the United States of America, who realized the Truth revealed by Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Ribhu Gita in 1974. Both books, The Ribhu Gita and The Song of Ribhu (the Sanskrit and Tamil versions of the text) have been printed by the society of Abidance in Truth (SAT) and are available from their website (www.satramana.org).

These English translations have become the basis for a widening appreciation of this ancient nondual work. Translations have been made from these English translations into a number of other languages, including Italian, and Hindi. The Song of Ribhu has also been reprinted by Sri Ramanasramam and is available from their bookstore.

In addition to these two complete translations, there have been a number of partial translations published. One is a small pamphlet, Essence of Ribhu, available by download from Sri Ramanasramam – www.sriramanamaharshi.org . The other is The Heart of the Ribhu Gita, by F Jones, Los Angeles: Dawn Horse, 1973.

Nome at satsang

Nome has been teaching Self-inquiry, as taught by Sri Ramana, for about 30 years. He gives satsangs and holds retreats at the temple of The Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), in Santa Cruz, CA, USA. For more information go to http://www.satramana.org. He has translated and published a number of books of Advaita Vedanta that otherwise would not be available in English. Many of these translations were done in collaboration with Dr. Ramamoorthy.

Moksha in Hinduism: By Dr. Shyam Subramanian

A seeker asks: In Hinduism, there is a belief in reincarnation. The idea of reincarnation is that when the body dies, I will be born again. However, we are taught to pursue Moksha (salvation) which puts an end to the cycle of birth and death. As a Hindu, why should I pursue Moksha? Is that not a permanent death forever? At least with reincarnation, I have a chance to be reborn. Perhaps I will get to meet old girl friends in my next birth and go to Las Vegas and Bombay again. But if I get Moksha, according to Hindu teachings, I will never be reborn. That is scary, is it not? Why should I then seek Moksha as stated in our scriptures? How does this idea of Moksha as salvation or liberation make any sense?

Editor’s note: Moksha in Hinduism is not viewed as permanent death but an awakening into eternal life. Moksha is essentially the recognition that one’s very nature is that of freedom and wholeness. The questioner’s presumption that his next life would be according to present desires or expectations (going to Las Vegas or Bombay with his old girlfriends) is not consistent with the doctrine of Karma. According to the doctrine of karma, the next birth is determined by a combination of actions taken in previous lives and the present life. The merits and demerits generated thus will determine future experiences of pleasures and pains. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the expectations to be with specific individuals and repeat pleasurable experiences would come to fruition in the next life. Although the seeker premises the question on a faulty understanding of the ancient teachings on karma and reincarnation, Dr. Subramanian clarifies logically the nature of Moksha and why it is considered the most worthy goal in Hinduism.

shyam

As a way of introduction, Dr. Shyam Subramanian is a professor of medicine and also well trained in the classical traditions of Vedanta. Shyam-Ji’s knowledge of Sanskrit and understanding of subtle truths of the Upanishads makes him a brilliant exponent of various Eastern philosophies and religions from a Vedantic perspective. His writing is clear and easy to follow and very helpful for the novice and the advanced students of Hindu philosophy. If any errors have crept in Shyam-Ji’s presentation due to my minor editing, these will be corrected as soon as pointed out.

Continue reading

The Hindu Doctrine of Karma: By Dr. Sunder Hattangadi

Editor’s note: The doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation play an important role in laying the ethical foundations of conduct in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. In Bhagavad Gita, the sacred scripture of Hinduism, the path of Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action) leading to liberation (Moksha) is laid out and explained by Sri Krishna.

In popular understanding, the term Karma can have connotations of both cause and effect. Karma can mean action and activity. It can also mean the fruit or the results of such action and activity that we have to bear. For example, ethical, noble, and selfless actions (karmas) are said to lead to good fortune in the future or in a future life. The opposite of that is true as well.

According to Hinduism, how one leads one’s life determines the mental state in the last moments. The mental atmosphere, ideas, and images occurring in the last moments of life lead to a particular type of rebirth (Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 8, verse 6).

In the article given below, Sri Sunder Hattangadi, a retired psychiatrist and a serious student of Sanskrit, discusses the concept of Karma with references to the classical scriptures of Hinduism. This piece is written at a very high level and a short bibliography is provided at the end for those interested in more information. Even though many Sanskrit terms are used in the text, Sunder-Ji provides excellent English translations to the Sanskrit verses which makes the article very readable by people of all backgrounds.

The original writing was posted by Sunder-Ji to the Advaitin list. The Advaitin list is one of the largest lists in the world to discuss the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta as taught by Adi Shankracharya. Sunder-Ji is a member and a moderator of the Advaitin list. His exceptional mastery of both English and Sanskrit make his works of great value.

I did restructure Sunder-Ji’s article a bit but not with much confidence in my judgment. If any errors have occurred, these will be corrected as soon as pointed out by Sunder-Ji and other learned members of the Advaitin list.

image

Sri Sunder Hattangadi

The Hindu Doctrine of Karma

Perhaps no word captures the mystery of human existence as suggestively as the word Karma. It is a word that evokes such a host of associated ideas – ethical-moral, psychological, metaphysical, and mystical – that one can easily lose one’s bearings in trying to understand it.

Krishna himself declares in Gita (4:17) – gahanA karmaNo gatiH – “hard to understand is the true nature of action”[`viShamA durj~neyA…yAthAtmyaM tattvam’]. It may be compared to exploring the Himalayan ranges to reach the peak of Kailasa, Shiva’s abode.

Simply defined, karma means action. The stem word, karman, is derived etymologically from the root verb (dhAtu) kRRi, to do, which also generates a multitude of other cognate words that are inextricably related to Karma – e.g. kartA (doer), kartavya/kArya (duty), kAraNa (cause), karaNa (instrument), and so on.

The definitions of Karma are modified by the prefixes, or adjectives, or compound words that are added to it, for example: Karmas may be described as sAtvika, rAjasika or tAmasika; nitya, naimittika; sa~nchita, kriyamANa (Agami), and prArabdha; kAmya, niShkAma; nyAyya, viparIta; shAstra-vidhanokta or avidhipUrvaka; akarma, vikarma, naiShkarmya; svabhAvaja/sahaja.

The Bhagavad-Gita, which Shankara has called `samasta-vedArtha-sAra-sa~Ngraha’ or the `epitome of the essentials of the whole Vedic teaching’ (or Spiritual Knowledge), is the incomparable vade mecum in explaining all the implications of the word Karma. It is a triune synthesis of dharma-shAstra, karma yoga-shAstra, and mokSha-shAstra. Any reader has a wide choice of verses to select in understanding this unique word. The present article is only one such selection, by no means exhaustive, and is only meant to serve as a pointer to other treasures.

Karma and Moksha: Action and Liberation

The word `karma’ yields over 300 words when associated with other prefixes and words to form compound words. The frequency of the word is relatively small in the Vedas & Upanishads, though the major portions of the Vedas (saMhita-s, brAhmaNa-s) are known as Karma-Kanda, i.e. dealing with rituals of worship. They, and the `dharma-shAstra’-s (scriptures on conduct), deal with the do’s and don’ts for the effective functioning of individuals, families, and society. The word has been repeated over a hundred times in the Gita.

The whole pursuit of Reality, the abode of Immortality (13:13) and Imperishable Bliss (5:21), is the effort to transcend the bondage or limitations caused by action. Every ego-centric action leaves an impression (vAsanA) on the mind (or chitta – the memory store-house) serving as a seed to germinate into further action, and results in consequences (karma-phala), that have to be experienced (enjoyed or suffered) in the present or subsequent life. These tendencies (vAsanA-s) can be countered by proper discipline of unselfish actions which leave impressions (saMskara-s). This wiping out of vAsanA-s (vAsanA-kShaya) itself is known as liberation (mukti).

The goal of action is to attain `actionlessness’, (naiShkarmya – Gita 3:4, 18:49). Immortality, freedom from delusion and sorrow and sin, peace, bliss, freedom from desire and anger, are the fruits of this pursuit, as attested in the following verses.

Gita 18:5, yaj~na-dAna-tapaH-karma pAvanAni manIShiNAm – purifiers of the wise.
5:11: “yogins perform action, without attachment for the purification of self.”
4:24 – “Brahman verily shall be reached by one who always sees Brahman in action.”
4:33 – “All action is comprehended in wisdom”.
4:37 – ” Wisdom-fire reduces all actions to ashes.”

Shankra Bhashya on Gita 3:16 states: ` ….till one attains the qualifications for Devotion to the knowledge of the Self, one who knows not the Self and is therefore qualified (for action only) should resort to Devotion to action as a means of attaining Devotion to knowledge.”

In Gita 4:25-32, Krishna defines the manifold yajna-s which are born of action (Bhashya: “in deed, speech and thought”, the not-Self, for the Self is actionless. If you realize that these are not my actions, I am actionless, I am unconcerned, you will be released by this right knowledge, from evil, from the bond of samsara”).

In Gita, 5:8-9, are described other actions (“seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing, speaking, letting go, seizing, opening and closing the eyes”,) which are expressed by a truth-knower as “I do nothing at all, the senses move among the sense-objects.”

Actions, or the flux of events or changes in phenomena, happen in Prakriti (Gita 7:4) or in Kshetra (13:5-6) when applied to an individual. 3:27 – “Actions are wrought in all cases by the energies of Nature (Prakriti). One whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks `I am the doer’. ”

How does Vedanta view Karma?

Gita 18:13 – (also 2:46, 4:33) Bhashya – “all action ceases when the knowledge of the Self arises, so that Vedanta, which imparts Self-knowledge, is the `end of action’; (sA~Nkhye kRRitAnte)”.

Other References From Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita on Karma

The classical definition of karma is given in Gita 8:3: bhUtabhAvodbhavakaro visargaH karmasaj~nitaH – “The offering which causes the origin of physical beings is called action (Karma)”.

Shankara Bhashya on this is: “The sacrificial act which consists in offering cooked rice, cakes and the like to the Gods (Devatas) and which causes the origin of all creatures, is known by the term Karma; for it forms the seed as it were of all beings; it is in virtue of this act that all beings, animate and inanimate, come into existence, after passing through rain and other regions of life.”

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1:6:1, states: “This Universe is formed of three entities: name, form, and action.”

Taittiriya Upanishad, 1:11:2-4, gives the guidelines – “……should you have any doubt with regard to duties or customs, you should behave in those matters just as the Brahmana-s (learned ones) do, who may happen to be there and who are able and noble thinkers, who are adept in those duties and customs, who are not directed by others, who are not cruel, and who are desirous of merit…..”

[Jaimini’s Karma Mimamsa codifies in aphorisms (3,454 in 16 chapters) the Karma Kanda (`dharma-jij~nAsA’) of the Veda-s, just as Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra-s (555 in 4 chapters) formulate the Upanishadic `brahma-jij~nAsA’ (Jnana Kanda).

Gita 3:14-15 – “From food creatures come forth; the production of food is from rain; rain comes forth from sacrifice; sacrifice is born of action; know thou that action comes from Brahman; and Brahman comes from the Imperishable. Therefore the all-pervading Brahman ever rests in sacrifice.”

Shankara Bhashya : “…Yajna or sacrifice spoken of refers to what is called `apUrva’; and this is the result of the activities of the sacrificer and his priests (ritviks) engaged in a sacrifice. These activities are enjoined in the Veda (Brahman), and the Veda comes from the Imperishable, the Paramatman, the Highest Self. Because the Veda has arisen from the Highest Self, the Akshara, the Imperishable, as the breath comes out of a man, therefore, the Veda, though all comprehending as revealing all things, ever rests in sacrifice, i.e., it treats mainly of sacrifices and the mode of their performance.”

As the reader can see, the word Karma has a rich history and heritage. A discussion of it is intimately tied to other topics such as reincarnation (rebirth) and moksha (liberation). Please review the following references for more information.

References:

http://www.sankara.iitk.ac.in/gitaindex.htm [Complete Works of
Shankara]

http://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/ [various commentaries on
Gita]

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/karma_mimansa.pdf [Jaimini
Sutra-s on Karma Mimamsa]

http://www.archive.org/details/thekarmamaimaacm00keituoft

http://www.mimamsa.org/articles/brief_introduction.html

http://www.geocities.com/profvk/gohitvip/contentsbeach11.html (waves
9&11) [by Prof.V.Krishnamurty]

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1994/2/1994-2-09.shtml

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/waystotruth.pdf [by Ananda Wood]

Back To The Truth – Dennis Waite ; 2007 Ch 2; O Books, UK